Topline: A federal appeals court Wednesday ordered that 167 documents in a lawsuit that alleges famously well-connected financier Jeffrey Epstein participated in a sex-trafficking ring should be unsealed—and that many of his powerful friends could be named.
- In its 27-page decision, the court cited the public’s right to access the case information outweighed the privacy of certain individuals, “including numerous prominent American politicians, powerful business executives, foreign presidents, a well‐known Prime Minister, and other world leaders.”
- Virginia Guiffre (now Roberts) filed the lawsuit against Ghislane Maxwell, alleging that she had used her as part of a sex trafficking network of underage girls to Epstein and a number of his famous friends, including his lawyer Alan Dershowitz and Prince Andrew. Both men denied the accusations.
- Dershowitz has supported unsealing the documents, according to the Daily Beast.
- The documents will not be immediately available, as anonymous individuals involved in the case have two weeks to file appeals.
- The court advised the documents be read carefully. “We therefore urge the media to exercise restraint in covering potentially defamatory allegations, and we caution the public to read such accounts with discernment,” wrote the court in its decision.
Key background: Epstein had previously been charged in 2007 in a 53-page indictment. As the Miami Herald revealed in its investigative series “Perversion of Justice,” Epstein managed to escape all federal charges through a plea deal that gave him and all of his coconspirators immunity, with all documents being sealed. Epstein ended up pleading guilty to one state prostitution charge in Florida. He then registered as a sex offender and paid unspecified restitution to three dozen victims identified by the FBI.
The contentious plea deal was orchestrated by U.S. attorney Alexander Acosta, now President Trump’s secretary of labor. TheMiami Herald’s reporting prompted calls for Acosta to resign, but he has remained in his Cabinet post.
In February, a U.S. district judge determined federal prosecutors, including Acosta, broke the law by failing to notify victims before Epstein pleaded guilty to the Florida prostution charge. That decision could potentially nullify Epstein’s plea deal, opening him up to new federal charges. But prosecutors are challenging this ruling.